The holidays are history and eBucks are winding down for another year. My gardening calendar reminded me this morning that its time to start planting fall garden seeds. Its hard to think of fall gardening with summer in full swing.
As summer draws to a close, gardens everywhere can morph into a tapestry of delicious greens, from tender lettuce to frost-proof spinach. Here in the south, as long as seeds germinate in late July or early August, fall gardens can grow the tastiest cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower you have ever cooked. In September, just as the tomatoes and peppers are finishing and making space in the garden, plan to drop in carrots, rutabagas and turnips.
Follow the steps below for a great end of year success. The time you invest now will pay off big time as you continue to harvest fresh vegetables for your garden long after the frost has killed your tomatoes and blackened your beans.
Count back 12 to 14 weeks from your first frost date. In the greater Tri-Cities area, that magic date is October 31st. Plan to pull out the seed starting kits. Next, stop by Evergreen and pick up some fresh seed starting soil and fresh seeds at the store. Then its time to get the ball rolling. Start broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale indoors, where conditions are more favorable than they would be out in the hot garden. Once the little seedlings are three weeks, plan to set them outdoors on cloudy days to ‘harden them up’ for their next journey to the garden.
If you are running late, you can start these plants in the garden, however plan to water the new babies often. Your goal is to get your plants up and going while you can still catch the last waves of summers heat.
Now that you have a plan for the seedlings you will be staring indoors, lets look at what needs to go into the garden in August. Even though the sun is pounding down, there are seeds to plant! Sow parsnips and rutabagas as well as cilantro, lettuce, radishes, beets, carrots, collards, leeks and scallions. I have had luck with a fall crop of fast-maturing peas in my garden in Gate City.
If setting seeds is just not part of your routine, never fear! The week of August 25th, we will begin to receive our fall vegetables. We will have a selection of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, spinach and Swiss chard. The most important think to keep in mind, the window of gardening opportunity is small. If cabbage family crops are set out after temperatures have cooled, they grow so slow they may not make a crop. Timing is everything!
Your fall garden will need a little bit of attention from the start. Watering and maintaining the proper moisture for your new plants is vital to the success of your fall garden. Dry soil can be murder on slow-growing beets and carrots. Consider installing a soaker hose for these young plants.
Come September, furrow up the rows and sow in seeds for your lettuce, arugula, Chinese cabbage, collards, turnips, spinach, mustard, pac choi and other Asian greens. You can also add another planting of lettuce and radishes. Keep these watered well. You can create a sunscreen by taking some boards, place them on bricks over the new garden spot and shade the new seedlings from summer